Health of Population Networks build strong foundation

For five years until April 2010, MSFHR funded eight Health of Population Networks that developed partnerships among researchers and other stakeholders on local, provincial and national levels. Their accomplishments built a strong foundation for health research in BC.

The goal of Network Environments for Aboriginal Research BC (NEARBC), one of the eight programs, was to build capacity for Aboriginal health research in BC and to improve the ability of Aboriginal communities to compete for national and international funding.

"We've done innovative work and other agencies are seeing the value," says Dr. Jeff Reading, director of the Centre for Aboriginal Health Research at the University of Victoria and co-leader of NEARBC. Those agencies include Reading's own centre (the network's new home as of April 2010), the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health (NCCAH), which now provides NEARBC funding, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Aboriginal People's Health, which sees national potential in NEARBC's work.

Specifically, CIHR has its eye on a research abstracts database, containing over 1,300 peer reviewed research abstracts on a wide range of categories including mental health, chronic disease, and child and maternal health. The database is housed on NEARBC's website, which resulted from a consultation process with Aboriginal communities.

"The database is a really successful knowledge translation tool, and one that will be sustained thanks to NCCAH funding," says network co-leader Dr. Chris Lalonde, associate professor of psychology at the University of Victoria. "Network members, and through them, Aboriginal communities, now have access to research they can build on to improve the health of their populations."

Another NEARBC accomplishment was its contribution to CIHR's human research ethics guidelines, which require that all parties in Aboriginal research engage as partners in the process.

"This is a major shift in the way research is done in Aboriginal communities," says Reading, who credits MSFHR with enabling such engagement through its networking program. "Ultimately, MSFHR funding has allowed the Aboriginal community to influence health research agencies and programs across the country."